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'Conan' game delivers fists of fun

Image: Conan
The legend of Conan the barbarian comes to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 thick with violence and gorgeous graphics. THQ
/ Source: The Associated Press

The legend of Conan the barbarian, the many-muscled pulp novel creation of Robert E. Howard, has been delivered in full gory glory with "Conan" the video game, a fantastic release thick with violence and gorgeous graphics.

The Conan character is perhaps remembered best from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, where the protagonist broke loose and took vengeance on anyone who dared stand in his way. You'll get that same bloody retribution feel here, but with better dialogue and a fuller story line.

This "Conan" (Rated M for "Mature" $59.99 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) battles several big boss enslavers and their monstrous minions. His efforts are done to aid A'Kanna, a female warrior trying to avenge the destruction of her homeland by the evil wizard Graven.

As I grabbed the Sony PS3 controller and dove into this drama I quickly realized one important thing — nearly every character in this game is angry and doing grave bodily harm. And I mean everyone.

It all comes together seamlessly. The character's movements are fairly free-ranging, yet the angles are easy enough on the eyes as to not make you dizzy. There's no dual-thumb twiddling necessary like first-person shooter games where you must manage your X and Y axis constantly while trying to navigate the game map and avoid harm. In "Conan," the screen swivels around nicely and you get a third-person perspective as you storm through various combat scenes.

Once engaged, Conan delivers crushing fist, foot and weapon blows. He can block and parry attacks, and snatch up better weapons from his vanquished victims for future killing combo moves.

Sprinkled throughout the journey are various hidden treasures, some tucked away in large jars and chests, that rejuvenate Conan's strength and give him enough experience to buy and master new death blows. The "elbow stun" and "fast strike finisher" were my favorites, the latter sending foes flying upward with a slice from my blade.

This title is not for the faint of heart, or thin of skin. Blood is let at every turn. Enslaved women wearing nothing from the waist up and not a whole lot below are chained to fortress walls. When freed, some of them exclaim to Conan "My clothes! Where are my clothes?" I was a bit offended by that aspect, and had difficulty simply chalking it up to the world of male gaming fantasy.

Overall, it's probably the best, most engaging game I've played all year. Even the cut scenes are works of art. "Conan" shows what game developers can deliver if they truly commit to a project and pay attention to details necessary to bring an iconic figure like Conan to life.

Horned hats off to THQ Inc., Havok, Nihilistic Software and all of the gaming brains behind this title.